04/03/2012, 00.00
PAKISTAN
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Punjab: Muslim threats against Christians during Holy Week

by Jibran Khan
In Eidgah Colony, Sarghoda District, fanatics defaced signs and sacred images belonging to the minority. Police refuse to file a report on the incident, tell complainants to leave the station. Human rights activists file a writ before the Lahore High Court for violation of religious freedom.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - Islamic fanaticism is casting a dark shadow over Easter celebrations this year in Pakistan. The country's Christian community has already received threats and warnings against celebrating the occasion. Now sources in Sarghoda District in Punjab tell AsiaNews that someone tore down Easter signs and decorations at the Eidgah Christian colony. The unknown attackers also threw black paint on the community's sacred images and made threats against those present, warning them not to continue in their preparations.

When residents turned to the local police to file a report, no one at the station would do it. Instead, they told the complainants to leave.

With courage and determination, some of the faithful put back the signs and images. However, once again, in the evening of Palm Sunday, fanatics came back for another raid. This time, they threw away the images and threatened punitive reprisals against the Christian colony.

Yasir Masih, a local resident, spoke to AsiaNews about the situation. "For years, colony residents have come together to prepare Holy Week," he said. Equally, "for years, we have been threatened. Even though we reported it to the authorities, they didn't take it seriously. This year, they [the fanatics] have come to our streets and threatened us. We are not safe, and we are scared."

The Masihi Foundation, a humanitarian organisation, condemned the threats and has filed a writ this morning with the Lahore High Court, demanding protection for the Eidgah Christian Colony, and more generally for Christians in Punjab. More specifically, it has called on the authorities to enforce the residents' right to freedom of religion.

"Christians live Holy Week in terror," said Fr John Gill, a priest in Sargodha. "The state has failed to provide them security."

For him, the Punjab has become a hub of violence against minorities. "We urge the authorities to take immediate action to put an end to the senseless violence."

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